PSSST, Savannah: there’s a fresh comedy crew ready to tickle your funny bone.
Comedian/actor John Brennan and his wife, Dolly Gray Brennan, founders of Savannah’s Improv Company, will celebrate their second installment of Front Porch Comedy, a 90-minute show of short and long-form improvisational comedy, this weekend.
Brennan got his improv start in Charleston with Theatre 99 Company; he’s also studied with I.O. Chicago Theater and the acclaimed Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City.
After college, the Second City super-fan had his heart set on moving to Chicago. An opportunity for his improv troupe, The Have Nots!, to tour short-form style improv on the college circuit, hitting Northeast colleges, the Vancouver Fringe Festival, LA Comedy Fest and the Orlando Fringe Festival.
“I toured colleges for four years until I was 25 years old, which was a blast,” Brennan recounts.
His achievements were honored in 2007 when he took home both the Best Local Comic and Best Local Actor prizes from Charleston City Paper’s Best of Charleston awards.
After living in Chicago for a year, Brennan made the move to New York City, where he co-wrote and acted in a one-man Off-Broadway show. As cheeky as it was sexy, The Banana Monologues received high acclaim and established Brennan as one to watch.
The fast-paced city life was a blast, but Brennan and his wife were ready to put down roots and start a family.
“I was turning thirty,” he remembers. “My wife and I looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s get settled down.’”
The couple toyed with the idea of returning to South Carolina, but “Charleston was booming,” Brennan says. “We decided to pick somewhere along I-95, found Savannah and said, ‘This is a wonderful town to start a family in.’”
The Brennans welcomed a daughter last Halloween. After getting into the swing of parenting, they decided it was time to get back onstage by hosting monthly improv shows. Currently, Savannah’s Improv Comedy hosts the Crash Comedy Show (an hour-long, “anything goes” variety-style show where musicians, artists, and local comedians deliver experimental comedy) and Front Porch Improv.
Inspired by Brennan’s time at Theatre 99 and Second City, Front Porch Comedy is a full theatrical experience. The night kicks off with Improv Games, followed by a set from a featured team, often an out-of-towner on tour. After a brief intermission, the audience returns for a long form performance.
“The first act is short form,” Brennan explains. “The long form is more like a comedic play. The second act is heartier...we’ll take time to create real characters.”
For the May 21 installment, Brennan has invited Charleston friends Nameless Numberhead to entertain the crowd as the evening’s featured team. The sketch comedy duo of Maari Suorsa and Henry Riggs has made their mark on Charleston with their popular Rip City series. Look forward to characters, staging elements, and patterns in their one-of-a-kind show.
The Black Box Theatre gig is all-ages, but keep in mind that the long-form show may get a little PG-13.
After performing around the country, Brennan is glad to have found a home in Savannah’s comedy scene.
“Savannah definitely has an edge to it,” he observes. “Charleston is prom; Savannah is after-prom. They’re different kinds of fun. Charleston is who you go to church with; Savannah is the girl you hang out with after and the night before.”
Over the summer, Front Porch Comedy will move to Bryson Hall (the event space at 5 E. Perry Street) in hopes of drawing in vacationers and tourists in addition to the theatre crowd.
As he approaches Front Porch’s second performance ever, Brennan looks forward to growing and reaching new fans.
“Front Porch is very Savannah,” he says. “You’re going to laugh with us, and we’ll laugh at you, and you’ll laugh at us, too! That’s what it’s all about.”
Front Porch Improv
When: Saturday, May 21, doors at 7:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m.
Where: Department of Cultural Affairs Black Box Theatre (9 W. Henry St.)
Cost: $12 or Pay-What-You-Can